Drawing the Deskford Carnyx sent me off to hunt for two picture books – Noggin and the Ice Dragon, and Noggin and the Moon mouse by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. At a very young age I had seen the animated TV show, but my love of Noggin the Nog was confirmed by the picture books on our bookshelves (presumably bought in the 1960s for my older sister).
Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin are most famous for Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and the soon to be revived Clangers. However, the Saga of Noggin the Nog, with its northern setting, its mountains and dragons and Viking ships, shields and helmets (as well as a liberal sprinkling of magic) really fired my imagination.
The stories were inspired by the Lewis Chessmen (on display in the British Museum). Thor Nogson, captain of the Guard, bears most similarity to these Norse carvings which date to c. AD 1200.
Peter Firmin’s wonderful drawings show a wealth of research into Norse archaeology and imagery. The book cover art and the opening titles on the animated films are decorated in the knots and swirls of Viking art with rune-style writing. In King of the Nogs we see a boat being built in the Viking clinker tradition. And (here’s the link with the Deskford Carnyx) the heralds in Noggin’s court play an instrument that is a relative of the carnyx – the lur.
There are (knowing) anachronisms too. The clinker built Viking ship is loaded up with boiled eggs and cocoa from the village store (which looks like a 1960s grocers). The Nogs are also keen on a good cup of tea and a nice slice of hot buttered toast.
If you haven’t ever encountered Noggin the Nog I urge you to head over to the Dragons’ Friendly Society and the Smallfilms Treasury to find out more.
Top of my book wish list at the moment is Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth. I can’t help thinking that my interest in this book is linked to my childhood love of Noggin, Nooka, Graculus the green bird and the strange northern landscapes of The Northlands.